Sunday, June 17, 2012

Possum Living Book Review

Several people had recommended a book to me called Possum Living: How to Live Well Without a Job and with (Almost) No Money.  It was written in 1978 by a 18 year old who goes by the name Dolly Freed. It is about how she and her father lived with no "real" job between them in a house they bought for cash. Their living expenses were just a couple of hundred dollars each year and they covered those by doing the rare odd job for money. They raised their own meat, had a huge garden, did not own a car, etc. in order to accomplish such frugal living.

In reading Dolly's book, I had the experience that many of my readers may have had when they first came across my blog: "How can they live on so little? Are they crazy?" If you thought I was extreme, you won't believe some of Dolly's advice!

Possum Living  has a lot of information in it that I was unable/uninterested in applying to my own life. For example, Dolly raised and killed her own meat. She goes into very specific detail about how to kill and skin rabbits and other animals. Since I don't eat meat, this didn't interest me much. The other thing Dolly talked about that didn't apply to me was distilling her own alcohol. I have no need to make hard liquor and my understanding was that it is illegal to do so. However, if you are someone who is interested in these things, Dolly's level of detail about them would be helpful indeed.

Having mentioned the things that didn't apply to me, I can honestly still say I enjoyed the book. I agreed with Dolly's frugally philosophies almost entirely. I liked how she understood the importance of not spending money, even at a young age. I was inspired her story and it opened me up to the possibility that even if I lost my job, I might still be able to etch out a way of survival for myself and my family. For me, that was a  really, really empowering!

Here are my favorite quotes from the book and good examples of Dolly's way of thinking:

"It’s easier to learn to do without some of the things that money can buy than to earn the money to buy them." (p. 32)

"Television is like a loud salesman in your living room. Sometimes he's interesting, frequently he's embarrassing, and always he's trying to sell you stuff." (p.213-214)

"Many people . . .won't raise their own meat. But someone had to kill the animals you buy in the store. People who will buy meat but won't kill their own are being hypocritical, its seems to me. If you're not a vegetarian, kill your own meat--don't hire someone else to do it." (p. 41)

Thanks to the author of the book for providing me with a free copy in exchange for a review on my website.

What's your favorite frugal living book? Do you have a book about extreme frugality that you'd like me to review?

Thursday, June 14, 2012

How to Make Almond Milk

Almond milk is very easy to make. Since we buy our almonds in bulk, it is also fairly cost effective. To make my almond milk go further, I sometimes mix it in a 1:1 ratio with banana milk. This makes for a winning combination!

 Here's what you'll need to make almond milk:

4 cups water
1 cup almonds
liquid sweetener

The night before, put 1 cups of almonds into a pitcher with 4 cups of water. Let it soak overnight in the fridge.

The next day pour the water with almonds in it, into a blender. Puree on high speed until the almonds become pulp-like.

Pour the mix through a tight weaved strainer and into your pitcher. Set the almond pulp aside.*

My almond pulp
Add 1 tsp vanilla and 1/8 cup liquid sweetener, or to taste. Stir. Enjoy!

That's all there is to it!

*Don't let that almond pulp go to waste! Use it to make some banana nut muffins or cookies!

GREAT READER QUESTION: Is it really cost effective to make your own almond milk? 
For us, yes. We can buy almonds from our bulk supplier for $21 for 5 pounds, or $4.20/pound. There are 3 cups of almonds in each pound. Therefore, this recipe contains about $1.40 of almonds and makes a half pitcher. It costs about $3 at my local store for about the same amount in a small carton. And don't forget: I still had the almonds to use in baking so really, I got to use them twice for the price. :)

So, what do you think? Would it be cheaper for you to make or buy almond milk? What if you cut it with banana milk?

Monday, June 11, 2012

Homemade Dishwasher Detergent

I'll be honest with you: Storebought dishwasher detergent works best. In fact, my favorite kind is Seventh Generation. Both their powder and liquid are exceptional. However, I am too cheap to buy them. So, I make my own. I've tried A LOT of homemade dishwasher detergent recipes and most of them stink. Here's the best one I know of:


1/4 cup Castile soap 
1/4 cup water 
1 tsp lemon juice 
1/4 cup salt 

Put in a container and shake. This recipe will not clump like Borax-based recipes!

(This recipe makes a small amount so that you can see if you like it before creating a huge batch.)

Instead of rinse aid, use vinegar.

Photo credit: Jeremy Zawodny
When I don't want to bother with making up a batch of the homemade dishwasher liquid above I use one TINY squirt of dish soap and a three TBS of vinegar. (You can also use bleach instead of vinegar, depending on your comfort level with that.) This seems to work pretty well in a pinch. You have to be careful with the dish soap though. If you put in more than a tiny squirt, you will have suds everywhere.

What's your favorite dishwasher detergent? Have you ever made your own?

Thursday, June 7, 2012

How to Make Peanut Sauce

My friend introduced me to peanut sauce and I am in love! Its very easy to make and is full of healthy ingredients. I like to eat it in the following ways
  • As a veggie dip, especially for carrots and celery
  • As a spring roll dip
  • As a stir fry sauce
  • On sandwiches, pita bread or crackers
I've only been eating it for about a month so I'm sure there are many other ways to enjoy it. In fact, I've yet to have it on anything that I didn't enjoy!

Here's how you make it:

Mix the following in a saucepan

1 cup peanut butter
1 cup water
1/2 cup vinegar
1/4 cup Braggs, soy sauce or tamari
1/4 cup molasses
1/2 tsp cayenne
Sriracha or other hot sauce to taste

Bring to a boil, stirring constantly. Once it begins to thicken, remove from heat.

This makes a generous amount of sauce--enough for one family dinner of stir fry, or for veggie dip for the whole week.

Peanut sauce and spring rolls
I enjoyed my peanut sauce as a dip for spring rolls. To make the spring rolls, I bought the rice paper wrappers from the store. (They cost about $5 and come in a huge pack of 50 or so.) You get them wet and then roll your ingredients in them. These spring rolls contain sauteed tofu and onions, raw cabbage, and raw shredded carrots. Yum!

 Have you ever had peanut sauce? Does anyone else believe that Sriracha is the ultimate condiment?

Monday, June 4, 2012

How to Barter

Part of the way we meet our needs and wants is with barter. Because my husband doesn't work for pay, he has more time to barter than I do. In fact, with the exception of cold winter months, my husband works hard every day for barter, for the experience of learning a task, or just for free because he's a kind man.

Even though he does most of the barter work, we both use barter to meet many of our needs. Here are a few things we do, have done, or plan to do in the future using barter instead of dollars:

  •  When we moved here, my husband did not know how to build or repair much of anything. However, because he has offered his services to others who are building their house in the area he has gained many valuable skills and many free, hot meals on the job site! He is also developing handy man skills that he can use should our family need more money. Since we plan to build our own natural house and business within the next couple of years, these new skills will very shortly save us tens of thousands of dollars!
  • Although we were able to heat our home last winter partially for free, for this next winter my husband has struck a deal with some local elderly residents to get free heating wood for us all winter long. The deal is that he will help these residents harvest the wood on their property. My husband will help get enough for them and will also cut and deliver (using their truck) enough wood for us in exchange for his work.
  • This summer I am considering taking unpaid work with a woman to exchange child care for cooking lessons. This woman is the best cook I know and she is in need of about 10 hours of childcare each week, so I will watch her child and she will teach me to be a better cook. Of course, I will then share her recipes with you! 
  • One of our kids gets drum lessons in exchange for us allowing his drum teacher to park a vehicle at our house. This saves his teacher the money and hassle of having to pay to park his car elsewhere.
  • Our other kid gets piano lessons in exchange for work my husband does.
  •  We often do work in exchange for food from someone's garden, homecooked meals, or other supplies.
  • My husband has worked for families in exchange for them coming to help us when we need a task done.  
  • As a family we try to volunteer for others when the opportunity presents itself. We've found that these gifts of time often come back to us in one way or another. 

 If our barter arrangements are too specific, here are a few barter ideas that anyone can do!

  • Swap childcare with another family.
  • Teach someone a skill in exchange for having them teach you a skill.
  • Watch your neighbor's pets or house sit for them in exchange for returning the favor next time you are on vacation.
    Photo Credit: La Grande Farmers' Market
  •  Run errands for your neighbors in exchange for gas money or car maintenance. This can pay for your own trips to get things as well. (This is one we also do.)
  • Trade homemade items or homegrown foods with your neighbors.

Barter work can be difficult because so many people are pressed for time. We've found the abundance of time to be the biggest benefit of living a simple life. Working with others in our community for barter creates good feelings and has helped us to teach our children about kindness and responsibility.

Do you barter? Do you volunteer? Do you see value in exchanging goods without using money?

Friday, June 1, 2012

Our Budget Updated

I've noticed that the post titled, Our Monthly Budget Exposed is by far the most popular thing I've written. I'm sure that's because you want to know what a budget looks like for a family who lives on so little. I don't blame you. I like to know the details of things as well.

Photo credit:
I love having a budget. It helps to keep me on track. For us, we take all the money we don't spend each month and put it in savings. We are saving for long-term rainy-day-type stuff, but also for things like current home repair, building our future business of storage units, and building our own natural home in a couple of years.

Since I shared that first budget with you eight months ago, it has become a little out of date. After all, budgets have to change and evolve. Some of our expenses have gone up (like our water bill), some down (like our utilities and internet), and we've added a couple of things we decided were really important (like music lessons and personal spending.) I decided the best way to share our new budget with you was to add a new tab on my homepage which will take you straight to our current budget. That way, I can keep that budget up to date without creating a new post for you to read every time I make a change.

Aside from my homepage, you can also find the current budget here.

Even before I had this blog, I enjoyed sharing our budget with others. When people would come to me for face-to-face budget help, I always started by showing them our budget. I mean, how can I help someone else if I don't have my own budget under control, right? Plus, it always helps me to see an example. Now that I consider myself to be an extreme budgeter, I think its even more important to share what that looks like!

What do you think? Is it helpful for other people to share their nitty-gritty financial details with you? When you see my budget do you think its doable or do you think its too extreme for your tastes?

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